American Times Lynchburg: Whiskey and dry, it's the Tennessee way

YOU DON'T need to go anywhere near New York's Times Square to find the United States a land of hustlers. From the garish roadside hoardings to the blaring television commercials, through radio newsreaders who intersperse their bulletins with details of today's supermarket "specials", everyone seems to be yelling a sales pitch.

But there are exceptions. Try visiting the home of one of America's best-known brandnames - Jack Daniel's. The distillery of the oldest registered whiskey producer in the country occupies a spacious estate in Lynchburg, Tennessee. But there is no way you will know until you are practically there.

The only sign is the two-mile marker, a discreet green plaque, on one of the minor approach roads. And if you were secretly angling for a drop of the hard stuff, think again. Commercialism in America has its limits, and some of the most rigid govern the sale of spirits.

Jack Daniel's is in one of Tennessee's "dry" counties. There are no liquor stores. A tentative inquiry about a glass of wine or beer with a meal will be met with cool disdain. The dryness of dry counties is not a talking point; it is a question that has been settled, and the answer is "no".

On an efficient half-hour tour of Jack Daniel's you will be shown some of the hundreds of thousands of barrels ageing in the warehouse. You will see the wood-burning shelters where they make the mellowing charcoal, the iron-free spring water that flows serenely through caves at the foot of the distillery, and the statue of the diminutive founder, the original Jack Daniel, in size 9 (American) shoes, because with the size 4 he really took, the statue fell over.

But the strongest drink you will be offered is lemonade. Under a special dispensation, wrung from county authorities five years ago, the plant gained the right to sell single bottles of an extra-special be-medalled edition at a counter crammed in the corner of the visitors' hall, unadvertised. You may register the bottle with the distillery: whatever you do with it afterwards, at point of sale, it's a souvenir, not a drink.

The paradox of a whiskey distillery where you may not buy or drink the product is not unique to Jack Daniel's. Some of the most respected bourbon distilleries to the north, in Kentucky, are also in dry counties. At one, you may savour a nip, buy one bottle (no more), and dip the cork in red wax to seal it. The county around is dry. At another, you cannot buy even one bottle.

Some dry counties are a relic of Prohibition - the years from 1917 to 1933 - when Al Capone held Chicago in thrall, Joseph Kennedy senior made his money, and illegal stills flourished. What befell the once-legitimate liquor businesses, such as Jack Daniel's - and their proprietors and employees - during Prohibition is treated as one of those dark chapters of America's history passed over in silence.

Distillery guides glide over Prohibition, noting only that the business closed in such and such a year, and reopened however many years later. And after shrinking over the decades, the number of dry counties is growing again, as wealthier, fundamentalist, church-going populations run liquor stores out of town.

But America's commercial instinct is not easily curbed. Jack Daniel's now markets all manner of non-alcoholic spin-offs under its label, including bottles (empty). If you prefer your bottles full, you must follow the natives across the county line: fortunately, you no longer risk jail for bootlegging.

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam